Yesterday I went to a meeting about men’s violence against women and girls in London. Access to the meeting room was initially difficult because when I entered the building and told the person on reception that I was here for the ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Meeting’ in Room X, she told me that the room was booked for something else. Eventually she told me that the room was booked for the ‘fourth meeting’. Could someone have asked to book a room for a ‘vawg meeting’ and been misheard, I suggested. Yes, of course they could, it transpired. I hate how vawg has become a word and this was an unwelcome reminder. At the start of the meeting, I started doing a tally about how many times the word ‘vawg’ was used. I almost immediately forgot because the actual subject matter demanded full attention and constructive engagement.
I hate how vawg has become a word because it allows users to disconnect from VIOLENCE against WOMEN and GIRLS. It hides the violence. If we who are engaged in raising awareness about men’s violence against women and girls as a step towards ending men’s violence against women and girls, want to raise awareness, how are we doing this if we allow the very words to be erased? Never more so when even ‘vawg’ is misheard and becomes ‘fourth’.
I hate how vawg has become a word though I celebrate that as a concept it has entered the mainstream because it connects the different forms of men’s violence against women and girls under patriarchy: rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, femicide, FGM, prostitution, pornography and other harmful practices.
I hate how vawg has become a word because I am not particularly fond of acronyms and jargon. Lazy acronyms make important information inaccessible to the ‘not one of the club’ non-specialist.
I hate how vawg has become a word though I acknowledge that it is useful when we’re writing, especially when we’re tweeting and have restricted characters (Men’s Violence against women and girl is 37 characters) and in these situations I use VAWG or MVAWG myself. It really doesn’t take so long to say it: “violence against women and girls” though, does it?
I hate how vawg has become a word because it renders men – the perpetrators – invisible. I know, I know, not all men. But saying that men as a class benefit under patriarchy and men’s violence against women and girls is an instrument of maintaining women’s subordination is not the same as saying ‘all men are violent and women never are’. It really isn’t. Maybe it would be more accurate to say patriarchal violence against women and girls but this also disguises the role and responsibility of men.
I hate how vawg has become a word.